Friday, October 2, 2015

Dusk on the farmlet...

We had a stunning sunset last night. It started out pretty and became more exquisite with each passing second.

As the days are getting shorter, more of my chore time is spent in low light. Soon it will be dark when I milk and feed. Tonight, when all the animals were taken care of, the sun had set. It was dark enough that I wished I had brought a flashlight out with me. My last job was to lock up the chickens to keep them safe from predators. I heard a sound and noticed that Ziva froze, staring towards the tree line at the edge of the field. I stopped to listen. It was a pack of coyotes,very nearby, singing the day to sleep. Ziva roared at them in protest, and the "song dogs" went silent.

Inside the wood stove was glowing and the house felt warm and cozy as I shut the door against the dark.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More about milk...

For the past several weeks I have been giving goat milk to a local friend who had an orphaned calf which was allergic to formula. The calf was tiny and very thin, but now she tips the scale at 200 pounds and is happily hanging out in a big pasture with other cows (hopefully) getting fat. Her owner told me she would be weaning the calf and had no further need for milk.

Today, after and making two quarts of yogurt and then sliding a fresh 2 quart jar of milk into the refrigerator to rub shoulders with several other full jars, I thought, "I should make cheese. I have a lot of milk." Just then my phone buzzed, and I had a message from a local woman whose sow (female pig) was very ill. She has a bunch of 9 day old piglets that needed some supplemental feeding. "Come on over," I told her.

So far these sweeties have polished off two pans of good goat milk. I hope they thrive and grow. I am so happy that my goats can help local critters.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Common Ground Fair...

Every year, in Unity, Maine, there is a wonderful, amazing, unique event called The Common Ground Fair. I have missed it the last two years because I was out of town. I was determined to attend this year. The weather was perfect. Sunny, breezy, and 70 degrees.

The fair is run by the Maine Organic Farmers Association. Everything is very "crunchy," and locals refer to it as the "Granola fair." There is no junky midway, you cannot by a soda, or find a plastic straw or any non-biodegradable utensils. The fried dough is organic and whole wheat. The lamb kabobs are from free range, grass fed critters. There are water fountains to refill the bottles you brought with you.

Many people are barefoot, women wear flowers in their hair. There are sweet children everywhere...

... and lots of animals.

Veggies and flowers were abundant...

There was music, floating on the air so sweet you could almost touch the notes...

We saw soft, warm things...

And hard, cold, beautiful things...

We ate healthy fair food, which seems like a bit of an oxymoron.

We ended the day by sitting on our sweet deck and watching the total lunar eclipse. We heard barred owls hooting, Canada geese calling, and (I think)a fox barking at the edge of the woods.

It was an uncommon day.


After morning chores I came right in and tackled kitchen cleaning. Niece Aimee and her sweet husband, Tim came from Massachusetts for a visit and supper last night, and there were mounds of dishes to take care of. The windows were shut because it got quite chilly last night. And those windows... they are dirty from a summer of bugs dancing on them and leaving behind bug poo and little dead bug bodies and general bug ick. The one over my kitchen sink is particularly heinous. I will get a ladder out this week and clean it up. I certainly don't want to be looking out that smudgy thing all winter long. At any rate, in the midst of my dish washing something outside that grimy window caught my eye. I stopped dead in my tracks looked a long moment, then hustled up my camera and marched right back outside.

Because sometimes the outside beckons and cannot be denied.

The sun was rising behind an ancient pine, and a bowl of mist had settled over the house. And it looked like this...

The animals seemed to notice the light. Ella paused her grazing to gaze.

Chanel did, too.

Luna, (who is gaining weight and feeling very perky) stopped playing with Jane and they stared at the scene.

And then the mist lifted and the sun crept over the pine. The moment was gone, but I managed to treasure that magical, enticing light while it lasted.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A little decorating...

I have to admit it. I love fall.
As much as I hate to say goodbye to summer, with it's long days and lovely evenings outside, enjoying . But still, fall is delicious to me. The colors, the cool nights (perfect for sleeping snuggled up with the one you love!) the smells, the wonder of harvest season. I love cooking fall meals like soups and stews, baking bread and apple crisp and oatmeal raisin cookies. And decorating a bit...

My friend Sonia grew the most wonderful pumpkins this year. Heritage pumpkins in a rainbow of amazing colors. She kindly let me come "shopping" on her sunny deck and I gathered up this lovely group. I could hardly wait to bring them home and create a centerpiece for my dining room table. It makes me smile every time I walk through the room.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Little miracles...

One of my Silkie chicken hens has been setting on 4 eggs. I should have marked the calendar so I'd know when they should hatch, but I did not. And the hen was prone to confusion. She was apt to get in the wrong nest box, leaving her eggs to chill. I didn't think they would hatch. Still, I checked often, and yesterday an egg was "pipping." This means the little creature inside the egg was pecking the shell so it could exit. And as it did, it made a little "peeping" sound. I checked in the evening and the egg had a wider opening, the chick was chirping, but not much progress was being made.

All the experts tell us to NOT interfere with a hatching chick. So, I put the broody mama back on her nest and went inside. This morning the egg was still mostly intact. The membranes (that bit that sometimes sticks to hard boiled eggs and is such a pain to remove) were desert-dry. The shell was hard. I decided, "what the heck!" and scooped it up and brought it in the house. I dripped drops of warm water on the membranes. In less than a minute the chick kicked, hard, and one leg was free.

I kept dripping. Soon, both legs were stretching into the air. I dripped more, and gently lifted a wee corner of shell from over the chicks head. In seconds it had stretched and moved and was free of the prison of it's shell. It flexed in my palm, chirping hopefully. The shell fragments fell away. I took it right back outside and tucked it under it's mama.

This evening the chick was upright, dry and fluffy. Hopefully by tomorrow it will be out in the coop, eating and drinking and growing and being adorable.

I started my day with life happening in my hand. Top that!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Marvelous day "off..."

I've been working many 6 day weeks during the last few months, but somehow ended up with 2 1/2 days off this weekend. Today was just... unscheduled. And that felt really nice. I had a few things to do but by 10:00 I was on the road. I did my bank deposit, and then went to Beth's farm market, one of my all time favorite places. There I stocked up on Delicata squash, a vegetable so yummy I could eat it every day. Then I headed for the "canning tomatoes," and bought a bushel of them. Right around 50 pounds of beautiful, firm, red globes.

When I got home I got right to work.

I was making a vat of tomato sauce. I got the recipe from a co-worker who is an excellent cook many years ago.

I love having hand written recipes from people. They take me back... to the moment I received the gift of it, to the relationship with the cook who shared it. They are delicious slivers of promise that live in a sweet little box that nestles up to my cookbooks. I have recipes from friends who have died, some from relatives,and some from people I barely remember. But I remember the taste of the item, and if I have the recipe it is sure to be something I really enjoyed.

I recently made something that I cook often, Corn Chowder. It is one of my daughters favorite meals. I decided to make it with a twist, and got fresh corn from a nearby farm. Then I roasted it. I made the chowder with fresh goat milk, fresh heavy cream (also from a local farm) and both local onions and potatoes. It was so good that we are still talking about it. So today I bought a dozen ears of corn, and sat in the first-day-of-fall sun while I husked it. The sun felt so fine.

Then I grilled it, until the outside had some color from the flames.

After it cooled I cut the kernels off the cob, and froze three packages of it for future batches of chowder. It will taste like summer, and make us happy.

While the corn was cooking I took a few pictures...

Chanel is feeling much better (see last post if this doesn't make sense to you.) I am on high alert, however, monitoring her compulsively. She seems to be extra affectionate since her scare, "hugging" me with her head and neck and looking deeply into my eyes with her big, lovely ones. I hope she knows I was trying to make her feel better on that difficult day. I hope.

I tossed the unused pieces of vegetables onto the manure/compost pile. The chickens run to me when they see me coming with a bowl from the kitchen. They make short work of the tomatoes and other bits of cast-off food.

The baby Silkie chicks are still tiny, but are beginning to fledge, or get their adult feathers.

They are just so special.

Once my cooking and critter enjoyment were over I had a special treat. Friend Marion invited Ziva and I over to go kayaking. We dragged the kayaks from her house down to the river behind her four wheeler. The dogs ran along, excited and full of energy. We slid into the water, and the dogs jumped in joyously, paddling along. We saw the new beaver damn up river, then turned and paddled down river. Marion's dogs know the routine. They swim a little, then race along the bank, then swim, then run. Ziva mostly swam. She paddled hard, trying to keep up, whining a little from the exertion. On the way back she learned from her efforts, and joined the other dogs trotting alongside us.

When we took the boats back up with the four wheeler, Marion let me drive a bit. It was such fun! I was hesitant and drove slowly, "HIT IT!" she'd tell me, and I'd accelerate. The dogs ran with joy, the kayaks bumped crazily behind. I squealed with glee.

Back up at the house, Marion's husband unhooked the kayaks, and had me slide back on the seat of the four wheeler. He took the handlebars and off we went, "Don't hurt her!" Marion called. "Don't scare her." I grabbed the handles. Scott said, "No, hang on to me." I wrapped my arms around his muscular waist, and away we went. Fast. Hard around the corners, crashing through narrow openings in the trees, up through the tall meadow grass and back, up the trail, faster and faster. A cow stood in the way, looking over it's shoulder at us as we approached. Then it bucked and kicked and ran from us, tail up. I whooped. Up and over a steep embankment, briefly airborne, then the engines shut down and quiet resumed. My heart raced.

My day off rated a "10."